There was pandemonium in central Abuja yesterday after supporters of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar clashed with youths believed to belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national secretariat yesterday. Atiku, a PDP presidential hopeful, was accompanied by a mammoth crowd to the party secretariat to submit his expression of interest and nomination forms at about noon, a situation that proved a handful for the security operatives at the secretariat. However, a stampede reportedly ensued after some unruly youths were seen beating up one of Atiku supporters with sticks. Other supporters of Atiku initially scampered for safety but later regrouped to face the assailants.
The thugs, who almost killed one of Atiku supporters, where, however, chased away by the police.
LEADERSHIP Friday learnt that gunshots fired by the police to disperse the thugs led to a fresh stampede as women who accompanied Atiku to the secretariat tumbled over themselves, many of them sustaining various injuries in the process. One of Atiku supporters, who identified himself simply as Aliyu, told our correspondent that the thugs were not part of them, but came on a specific mission to disrupt the Atiku event. Another account at the scene of the commotion said: “The fight started when the thugs, who came with APC flags, were asked why they came to the PDP national secretariat with APC flags, but in the process of the argument an fight started. “The thugs beat an Atiku supporter to stupor. If not because of police that started shooting, they would have killed the youngman. The man was later rushed to the hospital by his friends.” LEADERSHIP Friday learnt that several people were injured in the commotion as they were scampering for safety.
Apart from one of the victims reportedly beaten to coma by the APC thugs, one middle-aged woman was left with a fractured leg after the uproar settled. She was seen being attended to by her friends who surrounded her. Our reporter observed that long after the secretariat commotion, tension pervaded parts of central Abuja as hundreds of youths were seen carrying logs and setting bonfires on the main roads in the Jabi and Kado areas of the town. Motorists were seen reversing their cars from the main roads and taking shortcuts and streets roads to avoid the surging youths some of whom were carrying sticks. Other passers-by were seen fearfully running into streets and trying to get out of trouble. There was the presence of well armed riot policemen who removed some of the obstacles used to block the roads to allow free flow of traffic. Meanwhile, the FCT police said it had brought the situation under control, even as it was not certain of any arrest.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Friday, the spokesperson of the FCT police command, Anjuguri Manzah, said that when the fracas broke out, policemen attached to the command quickly mobilised to the scenes and brought the situation under control. The crowd that turned out to witness Atiku’s return of the nomination form bought for him by his supporters was sequel to his appeal to them to throng the party secretariat the day he would return the form .He had told them: “On that day, let us overwhelm the PDP secretariat; let us bring Abuja to a standstill. I bet you, by the time we overwhelm the secretariat and bring Abuja to a standstill, the PDP will have no alternative than to give us the ticket.” Meanwhile, after submitting his forms the former vice president said he would not be seeking the post of president if the country was working.
He said, “I am very sad that 11 million Nigerians have become unemployed since May 29, 2015. And this does not include the millions more who never had a job since leaving school. I have created thousands of jobs in my private businesses and I know how to lead a government that would do the same for Nigeria. “It weighs deeply on my heart that Nigeria has become the world’s headquarters for extreme poverty, according to the World Economic Forum and the World Poverty Clock. “I am not happy that there are so much killings and terror across the country that the Global Terrorism Index rates Nigeria as more terrorised today than she was in 2015. “I am not happy that Nigeria is perceived to be more corrupt today than she was in 2015, having moved 12 steps backwards, from 136 in 2014 to 148 today, in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. 136 is bad enough; 148 is simply unacceptable and shameful, especially under a government that claims that fighting corruption is its priority.” He asked all PDP delegates and Nigerians to consider working with him to get Nigeria working again.
In its reaction, the PDP accused the APC of sponsoring the thugs to disrupt activities at their national secretariat. It, therefore, cautioned the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, to rein in his party’s thugs.
The PDP, in a statement by his national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said while the APC had been distraught at the defections to the opposition stable, the ruling party’s violent attack on its secretariat was the height of desperation and will not be tolerated. It said: “The whole world witnessed with dismay how APC thugs, brandishing their party’s famished brooms and charms, armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons, stormed our national secretariat and attacked and wounded our members and supporters before they were dispelled by security operatives.
“The PDP had repeatedly warned against APC’s proclivity for violence and unprovoked attacks, but we never imagined that their desperation for power will drive them to the insanity of attacking our national secretariat. “Intelligence report available to the PDP shows that the thugs were assembled and mobilised from the national secretariat of the APC.
“We therefore charge security agencies, which also witnessed this attack, to immediately investigate this development, arrest and prosecute all individuals and officials of APC connected with the attack.” The PDP indirectly accused the APC of being behind the serial violence recorded in different parts of the country.
“Moreover, the unleashing of thugs by the APC against our law-abiding party members and supporters is particularly revealing of those behind some of the violent attacks on innocent Nigerians in various parts of the country,” it added.
… PDP Hallucinating On Defections
But in its reaction, the ruling party declared that the PDP’s claim that six APC governors and some of its senators had concluded plans to join the opposition fold was mere hallucination.
The party further said that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration was focused on improving the lives of Nigerians, addressing infrastructure needs and revamping the economy. APC national publicity secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, who said this in a statement released yesterday in Abuja, added that in the face of imminent defeat in 2019, the PDP had chosen to hide behind falsehood to save its face. “With the PDP’s claim that six APC governors and 27 National Assembly members had concluded discussions to join its fold, it is now clear that the party has assumed the role of comic relief ahead of the 2019 general elections. “Nigerians have rejected the PDP and all that it represents – corruption, impunity, waste and greed,” the APC spokesman said. Nabena, however, stressed that while the PDP hallucinates on APC members’ defection to its camp, the APC was consolidating to go into the 2019 general elections as a smarter, more united and stronger political fighting force.